The best middle grade books about caring and helping others

Shannon Wiersbitzky Author Of The Summer of Hammers and Angels
By Shannon Wiersbitzky

Who am I?

I’ve always been a sucker for inspiring stories. The kind where the underdog discovers their own talents and the impossible is achieved. As a child, I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents in a small town in West Virginia. No one was wealthy. But it was the kind of place where folks would give you the shirt off their back if you asked for it. That sense of community resonated with me. I’ve also long been a volunteer and have a strong connection to giving to others. Books that enable kids to understand that special feeling of people coming together to help one another or make the world better are worth reading. 

I wrote...

The Summer of Hammers and Angels

By Shannon Wiersbitzky,

Book cover of The Summer of Hammers and Angels

What is my book about?

The Summer of Hammers and Angels is the story of an amazing summer in a girl's life, one of surprises and challenges, discoveries and friendship, and of loneliness and community.

Delia's summer is getting off to a terrible start. First, an inspector shows up at the house and threatens to condemn it. Then Mama ends up in the hospital. To top it off, with no other family to speak of, Delia is forced to move in with her neighbor, Tommy "as-dense-as-a-stump" Parker. Not one to sit around doing nothing, Delia huddles with her best friend, Mae, and reluctantly recruits Tommy, to tackle the list of repairs. But Delia discovers that sometimes you can’t fix everything on your own. Sometimes you need to ask for help.

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The books I picked & why


By Katherine Applegate,

Book cover of Wishtree

Why did I love this book?

I love the idea of a wishtree. A place where you can write down a vulnerable thought and put it out there for the world to see. That takes courage. As Applegate writes, “everyone needs to hope.” While not all of us have experienced racism, which is a theme of the story, we’ve all had moments when we’ve felt new or unwelcomed or alone. I expect we’ve all had a moment like Samar, who writes “I wish I had a friend.” And while a magical tree helps to fulfill her wish, so too does a regular boy and an entire community, who all reject the nasty word ‘LEAVE’ that was carved into the tree and instead, leave wishes tied to branches for her and her family to ‘STAY’. 

By Katherine Applegate,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wishtree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Top 20 Children's Books of 2017

The New York Times-bestselling story of kindness, friendship, and hope.

Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all.
Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's…

Book cover of The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

Why did I love this book?

There are so many nice things we, as humans, can do for others. Especially people we know! It simply takes a little time and effort. In The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Oliver and his siblings decide to grow a garden in an abandoned plot of land in Harlem, something his elderly neighbor “has been hinting at for years”. Before long, it’s not just the Vanderbeekers who are helping with the garden. And I dare you not to smile when the whole neighborhood sees it bloom. 

By Karina Yan Glaser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

But when catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbor, their sleepy summer transforms in an instant as the Vanderbeeker children band together to do what they do best: make a plan. They will create the most magical healing garden in all of Harlem.

In this companion to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, experience the warmth of a family and their community as they work together to bring a little more beauty and kindness to the world, one thwarted plan at a time.


By R.J. Palacio,

Book cover of Wonder

Why did I love this book?

I think we’ve all been that person who sees someone different and because of our own worries, our own fears, our own self-consciousness, our own desire to be “better”, we shy away. Or worse, we actively engage, but in hurtful ways. The book Wonder is a good reminder of that. And also a good test. Would we be Julian or Jack? Would we call August a freak, or stand up to the bully? That question is worth asking. A reminder of the importance of acceptance, of asking for help, and of understanding. 

By R.J. Palacio,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Wonder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Has the power to move hearts and change minds' Guardian

'Tremendously uplifting and a novel of all-too-rare power' Sunday Express

'An amazing book . . . I absolutely loved it. I cried my eyes out' Tom Fletcher

Read the award-winning, multi-million copy bestselling phenomenon that is WONDER in this new tenth anniversary edition.

'My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.'

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other…

Book cover of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

Why did I love this book?

This book is so gentle and lovely and simply a wonderful representation of the best of friendship and support. When we doubt ourselves, we should be so lucky to have Horse and Fox and Mole, even if they eat our cake. While this isn’t a story in a traditional sense, it feels genuine to me as a quiet moment between friends. “Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing to give up.” Sometimes the best way you can help a friend is simply to be there and listen. 

By Charlie Mackesy,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A book for all ages, a book for all time.
Adapted into a short animated film, coming this Christmas.

Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared millions of times online. They've also been recreated by children in schools and hung on hospital walls. They sometimes even appear on lamp posts and on cafe and bookshop windows. Here, you will find them together in this book of Charlie's most-loved drawings, adventuring into the Wild and exploring the thoughts and…

Because of Winn-Dixie

By Kate DiCamillo,

Book cover of Because of Winn-Dixie

Why did I love this book?

This book touched my heart the first time I read it. I love that it depicts strangers as people who can become friends, who can come together and heal each other. Opal feels alone after she and her Dad move to Naomi. But thanks to Winn-Dixie, a mangy dog who adopts her, Opal slowly builds a community in her new town. She discovers that everyone has a story and that all sorts of different people can become family, even if they aren’t related.

By Kate DiCamillo,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Because of Winn-Dixie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Funny and poignant, this 2001 Newbery Honor novel captures life in a quirky Southern town as Opal and her mangy dog, Winn-Dixie, strike up friendships among the locals.

One summer's day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries - and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It's because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it's because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that…

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